July 18, 2021

The Papin Sisters // 68 // Murderous Maids

The Papin Sisters // 68 // Murderous Maids

Two sisters, Lea and Christine Papin were live-in maids for the Lancelin family.  They had worked for the family for many years, but one day, things went terribly wrong.  Lea and Christine brutally murdered two women, Leonie Lancelin and her daughter, Genevieve.  


Christine and Laya Papeen (pronounced several ways, heard this the most and it's easier for me to say) I will probably say every name wrong.

Christine Papin was born March 8th, 1905, and Lea Papin was born September 15th, 1911. The sisters were raised in Le Mans (La Mon), France and they came from a pretty troubled family. Before the girls were born, it was rumored that their mother was having an affair with her employer. After she got pregnant, she married Gustave in October 1901 and their first daughter, Emilia (Emeelia) was born. Gustave felt that his wife was still having an affair, so he found a new job in another city and announced that they were moving. Clemence (Clumance) got all dramatic and said she'd rather die than leave. As you can imagine, this didn't help their marriage at all and Gustave began drinking heavily. When Christine was born, her mother wasn't able to take care of her and Christine was given to her paternal aunt and uncle. When Lea was born, she was given to her maternal uncle. 

Emilia was the only child that her parents kept. In 1912, when she was 9 or 10 years old, it was alleged that her father, Gustave raped her. Her mother believed that Emilia seduced him, so she was sent away to a Catholic Orphanage which was well known for brutality and discipline. Soon after Emilia was sent to the orphanage, Christine was sent there as well and they ended up building a tight relationship. In 1918, Emilia entered a convent and she cut ties with her family. She ended up living the rest of her life there.

Christine also wanted to become a nun, but her mother forbid this and made her get a job instead. Christine's mom wanted her daughters to support her financially and since she had been trained so well in household duties, she became a live-in-maid. Christine was a hard worker and a good cook, but she could be insubordinate at times. Her sister Lea was quiet, introverted, and obedient. Christine and Lea were both maids for several families, but they preferred to work together whenever possible. Their mom made them change employers many times because the wages weren't good enough for her. She wanted more money.

In 1926, Christine got a live-in maid position at 6 rue Bruyere (Bruyay) for the Lancelin family. It was actually a surprise that she got this job because one of her previous employers warned the family about her. Christine had caused them trouble and refused to do some of the jobs, but the Lancelin family decided to give it a shot. Rene' Lancelin was a retired solicitor, his wife Leonie, and their daughter Genevieve (GenviAve) all lived in the home. Christine worked really hard for the family and she was able to convince them to hire her sister Lea as well. 

The Papin sisters didn't go on dates or seem to have many hobbies. Most of the local maids in town would go out together, but the sisters weren't really part of that. Christine and Lea typically worked 12 to 14 hour days and they were only allowed one half day off per week to attend church. Besides attending church, it seemed like the girls didn't get out much. They didn't have friends, they just had each other and they were very isolated. People described them as a little creepy, or different. They almost had a twin telepathy thing going on and could communicate with each other without talking and they didn't say much to others. They did have one interesting thing they liked to do though. They visited a local fortune teller from time to time. On one of these visits, the fortune teller told them that they had been together in a past life as a man and a woman. It sounds like it was suggested that they were lovers.

Over the entire 7 years that the sisters worked for this family, Rene never spoke to them. The orders always came from Leonie and she would write things down and give the instructions to Christine. The sisters were given plenty of food and had a heated room with a balcony view which was actually pretty abnormal during this time. It was a big deal for a maid to have a heated room. At one point, Leonie actually discovered that the girls were sending all of their hard earned money to their mother and she was not pleased about this. She made the girls stop sending the money and the sisters felt that this woman was more of a motherly figure to them than their own mother. I read an article that says Leonie actually wrote a letter to their mother telling her that the jig was up, the girls wouldn't be sending anymore money to her. 

Things had been going great until Leonie developed depression and the sisters ended up being her target. She felt that the girls weren't completing their work as well as they used to and had become complacent. She began focusing on their work, scrutinizing them, and eventually she started assaulting the girls. She liked to perform the white glove test and would go through the house finding any spots of dust that the girls had missed. She also had a pinching problem. She would pinch Lea's arms and hold onto her until she dropped to her knees and did what she was asked. Lea was pretty upset about this whole pinching thing and she did tell Christine that if it happened again, she planned to defend herself. The abuse got worse and Leonie slammed the girls' heads into walls. 

On the evening of Thursday, February 2nd, 1933, Rene was going to meet Leonie and Genevieve for dinner at a family friend's home. Leonie and Genevieve had gone shopping that day. When they arrived home, there weren't any lights on in the house. The Papin sisters explained that the power had gone out when Christine plugged in a faulty iron. The iron had caused problems before and it had actually just come back from the repair shop. The repairman couldn't find anything wrong with it, so Christine and Lea had to pay for the repairs. According to the Papin sisters, when they told Leonie what happened, she lost her shit and attacked them on the stairs. The girls tried to defend themselves, but the daughter, Genevieve joined in the fight as well.

Christine hit Leonie on the head with a heavy pitcher and Genevieve attempted to protect her mother by hitting Christine. In return, Christine started attacking Genevieve's eyes and instructed her sister to pluck Leonie's eyes out.....and she did. She took Leonie's eyes out with her bare hands. Christine ran to gather tools for this fight and the sisters continued to mutilate the bodies of their employers for about 30 minutes. They bashed the women's faces in with a hammer, then lifted their skirts up and used knives to continuously stab the back of their legs, thighs, and butts. Genevieve happened to have her period at this time, so they actually scooped her blood and smeared it over both women. Then, Christine and Lea went and cleaned themselves up.

The sisters didn't flee the scene. They locked and barred all of the doors and went to their room when they were done. Leonie was supposed to meet up with her husband for dinner that night. When she didn't arrive with Genevieve, he decided to check on them. Rene and his brother-in-law arrived at the house and noticed it was dark and the front door was bolted shut. Rene noticed that only one light was on in the whole house and it was a candlelight in the servant's chamber on the third floor. They thought this was pretty strange, so they went to the police. 

The police got inside the home and it's dark, they have no idea what is happening, but they saw something on the stairs.....it was an eyeball. Genevieve and Leonie were in pools of blood and everyone assumed their maids had been murdered as well. Leonie's eyes were gouged out and they were in her scarf around her neck. One of Genevieve's eyes was under her body and the other was on the stairs. The sisters were found in their room, lying in bed, wearing bathrobes and huddled together. The room was locked from the inside, so it took police awhile to get in. When they opened the door, the girls looked at them and Christine said, we've been expecting you. There was a bloody hammer in their room that still had hair and brain matter on it. They confessed to the double murder without remorse. They basically said it was self defense and they were sick of being beat.

During the court hearing, the sisters weren't able to provide an explanation for what they had done, but they both agreed that it was self defense. The sisters both attempted to protect each other by taking sole responsibility for the murders. Medical experts checked for signs of mental illness, but they couldn't find anything. Eventually, experts ruled that the siblings had a condition known as Folie a deux (Folie a duh) (Madness of Two) or shared paranoid disorder which is a shared psychosis where delusional beliefs can be transferred or shared from one person to another. This condition has symptoms such as hearing voices, paranoia, inventing fictitious threats, and even unusual sexual behavior. This typically occurs when two or more individuals live in close proximity, are socially or physically isolated and have little interaction with others. There's a dominant person who forms the delusional beliefs and they pass this on to the second person who is known as the acceptor. It's assumed that the second person may not have had these delusions without the dominant person inducing these beliefs.

The lawyer for the Papin sisters plead not guilty by reason of insanity on behalf of the girls. They both demonstrated mental illness, had very limited contact with people during the trial and often stared straight ahead as if they were in a daze. There was mental illness in the family, but it was deemed that the girls were fine. During trial, the Papin family was discussed. Their uncle had taken his own life and their cousin was living in an asylum.

It was believed that Leonie's anger had triggered the darker side of the psychosis and Christine was the dominating one in the relationship. It took the jurors 40 minutes to determine that the girls were guilty. Christine was sentenced to death by guillotine. Lea got a better deal because she got to keep her head......she received a hard labor sentence of ten years. Christine's sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment, so she kept her head too. After the trial, Christine's mental state went downhill pretty fast. Prison officials allowed the sisters to meet once. They say that Christine threw herself at Lea, unbuttoned her blouse and started saying please say yes. They believed this indicated an incestuous sexual relationship. In July 1933, Christine lost her shit and attempted to gouge her own eyes out. She ended up in a straitjacket to stop her from self-harming while she was imprisoned. Christine actually claimed that this rage was the same thing she felt on the night of the murders. Since she was separated from her sister, she was experiencing horrendous hallucinations, she refused to eat, and she died four years later in the spring of 1937.

Lea served 8 years of her sentence and was released for good behavior. She took on a new identity, got a job at a hotel with her mother, and passed away in 1982 or 2001. Some accounts say she died in 1982, but a french film producer, Claude Ventura, claims he found Lea living in a hospice center and the woman had suffered a stroke, was unable to speak, and passed away in 2001. Claude had been working on a documentary film called In Search of the Papin Sisters.


Folie à deux - Wikipedia

The Brutal Case of the Papin Sisters: The Senseless Crime that Shocked a Nation (thevintagenews.com)

Christine and Léa Papin - Wikipedia

Christine & Léa Papin | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers